” Accept yourself as you are. Otherwise you will never see opportunity. You will not feel free to move toward it; you will feel you are not deserving.” — Maxwell Maltz
“To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, and call whatever you hit the target.” — Ashleigh Brilliant
Sitting on the edge of the bed, putting my shoes on, I had a revelation. A “road to Damascus, stop the presses, pardon me while I pick my jaw up off the floor,” genuine, solid gold or at least silver, not plated, revelation.
I could put away my guilt. Lay my burden down.
See, I’ve been scourging myself. No, I didn’t kill anyone (that I know of). No high crimes or treason to confess. I’d simply been walking around feeling undeserving. After all, who am I? I’m a decent sort but nothing stellar. Not famous, not wealthy, with only the power the average person has. My name won’t get a better table at a restaurant. I’m good at what I do but it’s unlikely to usher in a new age of anything or start a movement that would bear my name.
In other words, not “enough.”
Enough for what? Enough according to whom? Well, the latter is easier to answer than the former. No, that’s not true. Enough for what? Anything really great. Enough according to whom? A crowd of people from my past, the nebulous “they” who judge such things (the They of “They say…”). It was just part of my worldview, the lens through which I viewed everything, that I was not “enough.” Enough of what? Anything. Everything.
So my point of view, the place I started from, was always that I was inadequate according to everyone and undeserving of anything good. And a good morning to you, too!
I’ve worked for money since I was eight or nine. I don’t mean allowance, I mean earning income. First I baked cookies and sold them (on horseback from a saddle bag, neighbors being scattered where we lived then). Then I cleaned house for an elderly couple. I seeded flowers, raked composted sewage into hard desert earth, then when I was old enough, worked in fast food restaurants, waited tables, managed a couple of small restaurants… in other words, I worked. Even when I was briefly unemployed, I worked at getting work, right on through to becoming a freelance journalist.
Was I happy? Occasionally. I wasn’t constantly unhappy, certainly, nor was I often happy, but then I didn’t expect to be. I wasn’t raised to be. People didn’t talk about being happy or how to be happy or even whether or not to be happy. “Happy,” if it existed, was a nebulous, shifting, accidental thing that might or might not occur. Certainly you didn’t waste time looking for it or trying to get it. What I was supposed to be was useful, obedient and productive.
Then a few things happened. My accumulated injuries meant that I was no longer physically as productive, and sometimes not very much at all. The journalism landscape changed, and the flow of work became a trickle. I was no longer earning much.
No matter what else I did, no matter how hard I worked taking care of people, helping charities, or anything else, it just didn’t seem to matter because I wasn’t earning enough. There’s that word again. I hadn’t been “enough” when I was earning a good income. How could I possibly be okay with myself when I wasn’t?
I was writing, things I really enjoyed writing that were important to me. And sculpting and drawing. But in the world I was raised in, these were all “just hobbies,” and therefore unimportant. Unproductive. Unworthy. True, there were people who said they liked my work. They enjoyed the writing. They were moved by the artwork. But still that voice in my head. To “waste” time on all of that when I “should” be working…
Mark said he believed in my talent and he’d live with a lower income so that I could pursue the things I really wanted, had always wanted, to do. It was about time, he said, that I had a chance to live my own life.
And I tried. I did what I knew to do. I worked hard. Got into juried art shows. Started getting some interest in the novels. But still the guilt. I wasn’t bringing in much money (to which Mark would always say, “yet”). I wasn’t worthy of the chance being given to me. I felt guilty that we had to drive our old beater truck, that we couldn’t do or buy other things… I felt guilty for the sacrifices I felt Mark was making for me when it might never pay off, financially. I pursued my dreams but did it while dragging guilt and a sense of unworthiness around with me. I didn’t “deserve” this chance, Mark’s sacrifice.
Talking with a friend, she brought up the idea of being “worthy.” As we talked and I told her she was a good person and as worthy as anyone and more than some, it occurred to me that good things happen to awful people all the time. They get great jobs, win prizes, all of that. Did they win because they were worthy? Sometimes, I told her, it’s just your turn. The job you didn’t get? Probably not because you weren’t worthy, or were less worthy than the person who did. We’ve all seen the less-qualified person get the job. Sometimes people get things whether or not they’re worthy, or when they are but we can’t see it.
The next day, putting on my shoes, it came to me. When it happens to you, no point in dragging yourself down by feelings that you aren’t worthy. Don’t even ask if you’re worthy. It just happens to be your turn. Take it and run with it. Enjoy it! Share it with others in some way. Spread it around. It isn’t always your turn, or anybody’s turn. Don’t waste it. When you get your turn, make the most of it.
It doesn’t matter if I’m worthy of my chance or not. It matters what I do with it. Maybe the being worthy isn’t in getting the chance, it’s in what you do with it.
So, head high, I’m enjoying the opportunity Mark has given me to pursue my dreams. I can be worthy by not wasting it, by taking it and dancing with it. Why not me? Why not you? We can be worthy.